Sports writer inquest told of fear over 'perversion': Sex row journalist Cliff Temple had compulsion to pat women's bottoms, psychiatrist says. James Cusick reports
James Cusick is political correspondent of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. As an experienced member of the lobby, he has previously worked at The Sunday Times and the BBC. His career as a journalist has been split between print and television, including senior positions as producer with Sir David Frost and at BBC Newsnight. He is also an award-winning golf and travel writer, working for over a decade as the UK contributing editor for one of the USA’s leading golf magazines. He broadcasts regularly for the BBC and CNN. He lives in London.
Friday 22 April 1994
The inquest, which returned a verdict of suicide, was told that Mr Temple was referred to Dr Shere by his doctors at the end of last August. He was already on medication, taking an anti-psychotic drug.
Dr Shere said Mr Temple, 46, was worried about his future career as a journalist with the Sunday Times. He feared that the management of his newspaper would find out about the perversion.
Mr Temple, a respected journalist and athletics coach, killed himself on 8 January. The inquest was told that his body was discovered on railway lines near his home in Kent. He died of multiple injuries, with his spinal column severed.
After his death, his mother, Joan Temple, released a tape of a telephone conversation that took place last July. On it, Mr Temple talks with Andy Norman, then the promotions officer for the British Athletics Federation. Although the tape was not heard in court in Folkestone yesterday, the coroner, Brian Smith, said that a 16-page transcript contained allegations by Mr Norman about Mr Temple.
The tape was broadcast on television and radio after Mr Temple's death. It suggested allegations would be made public that Mr Temple had sexually harassed the athlete, Shireen Bailey, unless he halted research for a story on Mr Norman's fiancee, the javelin thrower, Fatima Whitbread.
Mr Temple was also investigating Chafford Hundred, the commercial club for elite athletes. Mrs Bailey has since denied that there was any truth in the allegations.
Earlier this month the federation dismissed Mr Norman from his post.
Just before seeing Dr Shere, Mr Temple had returned from covering the World Athletics Championships in Stuttgart. The court was told that he had effectively suffered a breakdown at the championships.
David Moorcroft, the former middle-distance runner, was a friend of Mr Temple for 24 years. He told the inquest how he believed Mr Temple had recovered from his marriage breaking up in 1991. Money problems had followed; maintenance for his children, the upkeep of two homes. But 'he and Clare (his wife) had coped better than most', Mr Moorcroft said.
In August, Mr Moorcroft said, he noticed a change in Mr Temple: 'He was having major problems.' The journalist told Mr Moorcroft his telephone was being bugged and that he was being followed and he was convinced Mr Moorcroft's home was also bugged. The behaviour was later to be diagnosed as a paranoid psychotic episode.
On 23 August last year, just after Stuttgart, Mr Temple was found wandering on the railway lines near where he was later to commit suicide. The inquest was told by Constable Terence Armstrong, who had called at Mr Temple's home investigating the incident, that he had been told by the journalist that he had been 'severely depressed since his divorce' and had gone on to the lines to kill himself, but had changed his mind.
The inquest was also told by friends of Mr Temple that they had noticed a deterioration in his behaviour from August. In 'hindsight', three close friends said, they had been concerned about Mr Temple taking his own life. In the days before his death in January, he appeared to have met certain close friends to 'say goodbye'.
Although Mr Temple was on a high dosage of anti-psychotic drugs in August, the dosage had gone down as an improvement took place. By December, Dr Shere said, he was taken off medication. Dr Shere said he did not believe his patient was depressed and had therefore not considered him to be at risk from suicide. He said that 'by December he was straining at the bit to get back to work'.
Although he tried to reassure his patient that 'patting bottoms was not a perversion', Dr Shere told the inquest that Mr Temple was 'never entirely convinced' he had been told the truth. 'This was not enough' to explain the psychotic illness, Dr Shere said. Mr Temple told him he had not indulged in his perversion 'for several years'.
Mr Temple's first reporting job for months was on New Year's Day in Durham, at the Beamish cross- country meeting. Mr Moorcroft said that after the meeting his friend's behaviour had 'changed back to pre-Stuttgart. Something happened that took him back.'
In his summing up, the coroner referred to the harassment allegations made against Mr Temple. Mr Smith said they had been made by someone who did not know of Mr Temple's perversion, 'but they had the effect of making him fear for his reputation and that of his family'.
He added: 'Whatever happened (at the Beamish meeting), whoever he met, or whatever took place, there was a marked change in his behaviour'. Within days Mr Temple was found dead.
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